Rostock is the third largest town on Germany’s Baltic Coast after Kiel and Lübeck, the former East German port with a population of just over 200,000 is probably most famous for being a member of the Hanseatic League. The League was a commercial and defensive group of merchant guilds in cities across Northern Europe running from the late 12th century until slowly falling apart after 1450. The League gave the towns club, Hansa Rostock their name. Rostock like many Germany towns and cities has a pleasant central square and moving away from the town centre a mix of pre-war, Soviet and modern architecture within housing.
Having pondered going to Poland before it was added to the quarantine list, I decided on a trip to Northern Germany instead. A weekend in Hamburg with a trip across to Rostock on the Saturday. Fortunately my friend Tom lives in Berlin and had previous bought tickets through Hansa’s shop so had a membership enabling us to get tickets for this reduced capacity Covid Liga 3 game. Currently games in Germany’s attendances are decided state by state, Hansa had been allowed supporters by Mecklenburg-Vorpommern whereas some clubs in other areas of the country haven’t been. The train from Hamburg took a couple of hours before walking to the Neuer Markt to meet Tom. As we got near to the ground we stopped at a Vietnamese restaurant for a beer (Rostocker for me and disappointingly a Raddler for Tom). Entrance to the ground, saw us temperature checked and checking the details that were on our tickets. No ID check, or sign in that I carried out for a lot of the rest of the weekend while entering smaller grounds and bars. I bought a bratwurst and alcohol free beer (I know, a real shame) and we made our way to our seats.
The Osteestadion was rebuilt on the site of the 1954 original stadium at the start of the 21st century. While on the whole a reasonably smart, if not interesting ground, the stadium has retained it’s old 1960’s floodlights. Jutting over the stands at angles, these DDR era masterpieces really add to the ground. The idea must have impressed fellow DDR Oberliga alumni Erzgebirge Aue who also decided to keep their floodlights when redeveloping their ground a few years ago. Hansa spent a decade in the Bundesliga from 1995-2005 and were seen to many as the DDR’s most successful post-reunification club. In recent years though the club has found themselves in Liga 3 for eight years. Seemingly always bobbing along with no real chance of going up or down finishing 6th for the last 3 seasons. Historically in the DDR Oberliga Hansa were perpetual also-rans, until the last year of the East German top flight in 1991 also capturing the DDR Cup.
The game itself saw another fallen giant in 1860 München in town, in 2017 1860 had got into a position of insolvency meaning they couldn’t obtain a Liga 3 License and were relegated to the Bayernliga the fifth regional tier of German football. As the teams came out, the stadium rose as one (there’s no away fans currently) and did the always excellent German football thing of belting out their club anthem with scarves aloft. Rostock’s wasn’t too bad but, some are absolutely awful. Most tend to be 80’s soft rock ballads with gravelly vocals by a local band, occasionally covers or odd love songs to the club. Usually this raises a smile but having not seen a game with a crowd of this level since March it was pretty special. It’s only when back in a stadium you realise how much you miss the crescendos of noise that comes with the ebb and flow of a football match. I would guess the attendance was between 7,000-10,000 in a 29,000 capacity stadium.
The first half started well, a reasonably end to end game on a greasy pitch due to some pre-match showers. 1860 edged the first half in my opinion and were duly awarded on 42 minutes when Dennis Erdman got to a near post corner before Hansa goalkeeper Markus Kolke. The hosts wouldn’t have to wait long for their retort when 5 minutes after half time when the deliciously named Bentley Baxter Bahn beautifully met a cross on the edge of the area and side footed the ball home. Hansa dominated the rest of the game seeing a ball cleared off the line after a pretty clear handball. 1860 would go down to ten men after Phillipp Steinhart received a second yellow with 6 minutes remaining. Hansa threw the kitchen sink at 1860 to try and grab a late winner but it wasn’t to be.
As the final whistle blew Rostock fans were clearly disappointed they weren’t able to help their team over the line. This weekend would be the last that people travelling from the UK to Germany would not have to self isolate for two weeks putting to pay a planned trip in November. Tom was lovely enough to drop me back at the station before the journey back to Hamburg. Football with large crowds will have to wait a touch longer for me with the ongoing issues, but this trip and match while historically wouldn’t be anywhere near the best for me will be incredibly fondly remembered for years to come.